Netherlands-born Teye has been a professional guitarist for more than two decades, and like a lot of gigging guitarists spent his share of time searching for a guitar that could cover a variety of tones.
Drawing on his experience, and time spent building and modifying guitars with his father, Teye decided to build an electric that would satisfy his needs, something with the response of his flamenco guitar, the looks and feel of the Zemaitis in his collection, and a variety of usable tones.
With one look at the Teye Guitars Electric Gypsy model (available in color/trim options called La India or La Mora) it’s immediately apparent that Wijnterp has a sincere appreciation for the work of guitar builder Tony Zemaitis. In fact, one’s first impulse upon seeing the Electric Gypsy likely is, “It’s a Zemaitis copy,” what with its engraved-aluminum top and narrow-waist single-cut body. A closer look reveals a much more Southwest/Texas vibe, with inlaid turquoise mosaic and longer (25.5″) scale length. The Electric Gypsy has a single-cutaway mahogany body with a three-piece set mahogany neck, compound-radius bound ebony fretboard with mother-of-pearl dot inlays, “diamonds and stripes” body inlays, and 24 large frets. Nearly all hardware is hand-made, from the aluminum-capped brass tailpiece and engraved aluminum adjustable bridge, to the engraved pickup rings, truss-rod cover, and switch tip. The only off-the-shelf parts are Grover Imperial tuning machines, Schaller straplock buttons, and the control knobs.
The finish on the La India is a very thin lacquer similar to a French-polish finish you might see on an old violin. Being hand-applied, this type of finish does tend to show imperfections and is more prone to wear than the typical modern high-gloss finish. But those who use it believe it gives the guitar superior acoustic resonance, plus, it gives the mahogany a beautiful reddish/brown patina you don’t get with a common poly finish. The Electric Gypsy’s electronics are unique, with a trio of custom-wound Jason Lollar humbuckers, five-way lever pickup selector, master Tone control, two Volume controls, and a Mood control, all laid out in a manner that’s easy to navigate. The five-way lets the user run the bridge pickup by itself, bridge and middle pickups in parallel, bridge and neck in parallel, middle and neck in parallel, and neck pickup by itself. The number three position on most five-way switches would run the middle pickup alone, but with the Teye, it’s the more usable combination of the neck and bridge pickups together (like the standard Les Paul middle position). The Tone control rolls off high-end, and the Volume controls affect whichever two pickups are selected (allowing you to get the middle pickup by itself in positions two and four with one of the Volume knobs turned all the way down). With this setup, all three pickups are also accessible between positions two and three, or three and four. The Mood control morphs the characteristics of the Lollar pickups from full fat humbucker to a sparkling single-coil sounds. Normally, when a circuit is tricked out like this, we’d get more technical and sneak a peek at the wiring in the control cavity, but removing the engraved-aluminum cavity cover from the back of the Electric Gypsy reveals a sealed compartment replete with a sticker warning that removal will void the warranty. Teye says that beyond keeping his proprietary circuit from peering peepers, the guitar is wired very differently, and unless someone is well-versed in electronics, “…it would be a disaster if they stuck a soldering iron in.” And, he stresses that because he is personally in touch with the owners of every guitar he builds, he can talk any tech through a repair. So for now, anyway, his secret is safe!
From a playability standpoint, the La India combines a very comfortable C-shaped neck and a professional setup that makes it a breeze to play. It offers very good access up to the 24th fret because of the contoured neck heel and deep cutaway. The guitar’s weight (about nine pounds) is well-distributed, a fact that when combined with its smaller, thinner body, give it a balanced, unencumbered feel.
Through the clean channel of a Koch Twintone II 1×12″ (12AX7/EL34) combo, the La India’s tone was very well-balanced – fat and clear in all five pickup-selector positions. A huge plus is the fact that the middle position engages the two outside pickups instead of just the middle, which allows the player to use a standard middle-position humbucker sound. As you back down the Mood control from 10 to 0, the tone slowly morphs into a hot single-coil sound, rolling off midrange response and adding sparkle to the top-end. Again when you toggle through the five pickup combinations you get some pretty convincing Fender-like sounds; the two out-of-phase tones being very reminiscent of a Stratocaster, while the middle position makes a convincing Tele-like tone. The 25.5″ scale bolsters the twanginess of the single-coil sounds and adds note separation and definition to the humbucker sound.
Through the overdrive channel of the Koch, the Electric Gypsy produced a thick, creamy, sustain-loaded overdrive tone. Backing down the Mood control a bit adds a taste of Fender twang, giving the overdrive tones a touch more clarity and sizzle. Nearly every pickup-and-Mood-control combination produces a good-quality, usable sound, with nary a mini-toggle or push/pull pot to be found!
The Teye Electric Gypsy is a beautiful hand-crafted instrument with innovative, player-friendly electronics that produce a variety of usable tones.
Teye Guitars Electric Gypsy
Contact Teye Guitars, 5801 West Hwy 290 #23 Austin, TX 78735; phone (512) 922-0789; www.teye.com.
Anthony Gomes – Electric Gypsy – Rock